The world’s most powerful laser, under construction in Magurele, close to Bucharest, is almost complete. The team of researchers will start the two-year tests in April. The investment, estimated at 300 million euros and financed from European grants, will become operational in 2019, Professor Nicolae Zamfir, director of the Extreme-Light Infrastructure – Nuclear Physics Project (ELI-NP), stated.
A total of 140 persons are working on this project, 120 of whom are Romanian and international researchers who came to work on the biggest scientific project Romania is involved in. Thousands of components are currently being assembled to become part of the project that will restore Romania on the global research map.
When it becomes operational, ELI-NP will be the most important scientific research centre in Romania. It will help in the discovery of radioactive isotopes that could cure cancer, for example, or in the full identification of the content of radioactive waste barrels without opening them, which is extremely difficult to do at present.
“The construction of the buildings that will house the laser was completed in May last year, and for several months thereafter, until September, all parameters were fully tested. Had one of the parameters not been at the level we requested, we would have had problems subsequently. The building was tested for four months, day and night, under special conditions of temperature, humidity, radioprotection, electromagnetic field protection, protection against vibrations, against pressure. All tests were passed. The first arm of the laser has already been installed. The delivery of the laser’s components started in September, they were brought mostly from France. Most of the components have been delivered and all the components for the laser’s first arm. The laser is now being assembled. In fact, the equipment is the most important part of the project. We’ll start the tests in April. These tests will last two years and the laser is scheduled to become operational in the summer of 2019,” Professor Nicolae Zamfir, director of the Extreme-Light Infrastructure – Nuclear Physics Project (ELI-NP), stated for profit.ro.
Professor Zamfir says that the works did not go over budget and two thirds of the sum was spent in the four years that have passed since the start of the project. “The implementation of the project started in January 2013 and until now, so after four years, around two thirds of the 300 million euros have been spent, namely around 200 million euros. In the sense that for this money we drafted the paperwork needed to obtain financing from the European Commission, all documents were sent for reimbursement. We were within limits. In 2015 we asked the European Commission for an extension and we received the approval after one year and a half. We bought a plot of land with money from the [‘Horia Hulubei’ National Physics] Institute’s funds, to get direct access to the beltway, there’s 150 metres. Here, in order to get to the ELI, we have to go through Magurele. And we asked for a supplementation from the European Commission, to be able to create that access point and it was approved.”
Zamfir also stated that with money from the European Commission and the Government, ELI researchers will be paid at levels seen in other research centres in the world.
“It’s the most powerful laser in the world, we have the best equipment, the brightest Gamma-ray beam. In order to have the best results too, in such a grandiose project, you also have to have the best people, and to pay the researchers as deserved. We received an approval from the European Commission and from the Government for ELI researchers to be paid like in other research centres in the world, for instance like [the researchers] in CERN, Geneva, Switzerland. The net monthly salary thus ranges from 1,000 euros for a research assistant to 5,000 euros for a senior researcher.”